mi ani? ma ani?

like my people, my

thoughts
poems
head
love
history

all are scattered.

and now that my matriarch is dead,

what
where
who

am i?

why did you leave me like this?
i don’t feel ready.

ahava

from now on, whenever a hebrew or yiddish word bubbles up into my heart, I will not allow myself to suppress it like I shamefully do my tears

I will let my lost languages, mame loshn, the tongues that put me in the skin of my ancestors, I will let those words burst out of my chest like fire

I will let them burn the skin of anyone who shames me for speaking a language i hold on to

languages too heavy for me to carry, the diaspora has made my arms weak but I will not let go.

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i want to talk to g-d

i want to talk to g-d but loshn kodesh – the language that g-d speaks – hits my heart without passing through my ears.

i want to talk to my ancestors but mame loshn draws more laughs in this place than smiles of recognition.

i ache to speak the languages of my people, languages that taste like the desert and ghettoes, sand and glass, fire and resilience, but instead i speak common tongues like english and french and latin – i feel like crying because they are familiar in a way that my own languages may never be.

what does diasporic sorrow feel like?

what does diasporic sorrow feel like?

it feels like my chest tightening with tears i’m not sure i’ll shed. my throat hurts, a lump is trying to escape from it.

it feels like my body tensing up in wait. i still don’t know what i’m waiting for.

it feels like a constant buzz of anxiety. like the kind i get when i don’t know if i’ve locked my front door, except there’s no home to go to at the end of the day to check.

it feels like the desert. hot. dry. my eyes sting like when sand gets in them.

it feels like confusion. like in the cartoons i used to watch, with a question mark flitting around my head. i can’t even express what i’m confused about, half the time.

it feels like the burst of sadness when i realize that the language my mother spoke to me as a child isn’t a made-up language after all. it’s the language of my people. it’s a language we all used to speak.

it feels like the frustration when my siblings and friends and i share pieces of our histories with each other, trying to make pieces of different puzzles fit together as one. none of us were born complete.

it feels like i am constantly justifying why i am, where i am, who i am, what i am. to the point where i question my own truth.

it feels like it will never get better. i will never know anything.

it feels like i will feel this way forever.

most of us always have, anyway.

passover [submission]

passover (poem) [submission from hamletrash.tumblr.com]

remember when your skin first felt like a

disease, like every pore if you squeezed it

would spit cold cyanide

remember when you were a slave in the house of bondage

remember the blood on your thighs. remember

the plague of boils, the plague of blood,

the plague of cattle disease

(you used to have a toy a

cow with a button on its foot

push the button and its joints buckled

and collapsed)

pretending as you

scrubbed your sheets

that this was the blood of a man you’d killed

remember that spring when god peeled your skin off and ate it like bread

the terror of how your zipped coat

looked when you sat down

the waves and bubbles the zipper made.

like eve under trees

the sudden alien weight of her body

this is the bread of affliction

god spits blood in the river, god

whispers into your bed

kisses your neck full of boils

god in a breath of lice that squirm through

your firstborn’s hair

god bound between your eyes and

upon the doorposts of your houses

god’s blood in the nile

lamb’s blood on the door

cows’ blood in the fields

your blood in the sink

stick your smallest finger in the wine

she said to find my element…

my element is smoke.

dirty, captivating, floating, dissolving… choking.

my punishment is ephemerality, impermanence.

i am fascinated by the macabre

and also terrified.

my penance is letting go –

i self-sabotage and end up in purgatory.

there’s a smoke machine manned by spirits smoking cigarettes that smell unfamiliar – that one: a cigar.

my job, they say, is to clean the air by breathing:

it gives me anxiety and

the spirits shape-shift into various things they know unsettle me

so i name them Puck 6, Puck 2, Puck 5/

my least favourite small numbers.

when i get out of here, i will take up smoking again.

i will blow smoke in the face of everyone i see

and end up back where i came from –

unless i decide to change.

which i might.

take heart

In times of sorrow, take heart, even

though you stand at deaths door: the

candle flares up before it dies,

and wounded lions roar.

  • Samuel Ibn Naghrila/ Samuel haNagid

anonymous submission

“diaspora poem?” [anonymous submission]

some nights when i’m alone, my thoughts run strange:

that my heart is a homeland,

pumping culture and language and identity

through rivers, over mountains.

nearer to my heart are the organs that are strong:

my lungs are my ancestors, receiving the most blood,

next my digestive system is my parents—

not as rich, yet not as poor as me—

because i am housed within my hands and feet.

i am choked by the circulation problems i’ve had since i was born,

and my hands and feet are cold and weak

like my sense of identity

like my connection with eretz yisrael

like my understanding of those other jews.

at which point can the dysfunctional body flourish,

when the heart is a homeland that cannot reach over distances,

when there are far more important places

for that blood to reach?

i want to reach out in the dark for answers,

but my feeble hands clutch at nothing

nothing but the drowning call of diaspora.

remember where you came from

they say “remember where you came from” –

that’s hard to do when the only memories of your home are of broken glass and fire.

i call myself a diasporan

and i am…

but how do i explain that the places i come from

don’t exist anymore?

that the plurality of my heritage doesn’t equal home?

i say that i belong to the desert.

it’s the only answer that makes sense

because nothing really fits.

ahavat hayam

i love the sea, and the sea loves me.

i love the desert, but it doesn’t love me back.

i am afraid of open water…

maybe that’s my punishment for deserting the desert.

the thing with an open space like the sea and the desert

is that it can swallow you

it can consume you

it can confuse you.

home?

bayit?

beis?

where is that?

would u still make jokes?

would u still make jokes if I told u that

for years,

I had nightmares of giant ovens,

showers that choked the life out of me,

lying down next to dirty, sickly, emaciated bodies, some dead, some barely alive, of people I once knew,

digging my own grave: one of millions,

science experiments performed on my body,

tell me:

why is any of this funny to u?

go ahead, be angry at me://

you talk about me as if i created your sorrow:
as if i was not only the sun that put chlorophyll into your leaves,
but also the weeds that choked the life out of your rotting flowers.

i will sit and wait,
and hope that you notice i am only a small gust of wind.
in the meantime, i will try not to blow too hard on your petals.

diasporic sorrow

i have a meaningless name, void of story, without a destiny. i speak an empty language, one that does not speak to me. my country is not mine. my countrymen are not my people. they will forever see me as “other”, they let me know in small ways that i do not belong. there is a constant ache in my belly and it tastes like watery borsht and it smells like onions and it sparkles like silenced brown eyes that never die and it sounds like tentative whispers of old languages on thick clumsy tongues.

those whispers seem to tell me that i have no home, but i can’t be sure because i don’t speak the language.

breathing

i want to be smothered in jewishness.

i want to breathe it, i want jewishness in my skin.

when my hair stands on end i want it to exude jewishness,

i want to swallow jewishness when my throat is dry,

i want it to mix with the salt in my tears when i allow myself to cry

and stain my cheeks because i refuse to wipe them.

i want to feel all of it, all the things that come with existing in jewishness

i want to be able to breathe in and feel like my lungs aren’t half-deflated.

i want to suffocate in jewishness, and in suffocating, finally feel the sweet taste of air.

everything else is a consequence

jewish history is not the holocaust

it is not the thousands of years of galus

of wandering exile, of remorse and disgrace.

it is not the inquisition, it is not the transition

from being golden kings of judah and yisrael to hidden scholars in babylon

from purveyors to seekers, from scholars to archaeologists.

it is not the story of revolts and submissions

of conversions and revelations,

of family secrets and underground bunkers.

jewish history is not the history of war

it is not the history of reclamation

it’s not the history of separation or desperation

and don’t you dare tell me it is a history in the middle of its final chapter.

“what do you have left then?” they ask, honest and curious

it’s a very good question. sometimes i don’t know.

(sometimes, though, when the light enters the sanctuary from the right angle

so early in the morning that my eyes are heavy and the words

modeh ani are thick on my lips, sometime i am filled

with the generations of people who have uttered these prayers before

who will say them again when i have returned to dust,

who will find in them old and new meaning, who will remember me

for the stories i passed down, for the blood i kept alive,

and i remember what my grandfather told me before he died:

jewish history is the promise of thousands of stars that was given to avraham.

everything else is a consequence.)

  • two-zuzim.tumblr.com